In the End Are My Beginnings

This is my fifty-second (last) in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

“Do you know which neighborhood you’ll walk last?” Shannon, our daughter, asked. She and I were in a hot car as I drove. Shannon had spent a few weeks at home over the summer in between life phases and had noted my absence several mornings when I was out before morning dawned. I still had a dozen communities left to explore.

But I had kept a long-held secret from her and everyone else who asked.

“I’ve known which one I would end with almost since I started. But I’m not telling.”

Shannon attempted several guesses. But she hadn’t been in my life long enough to recall all my beginnings in Cincinnati, and therefore could not accurately predict where my project would end.

My secret was this: I had saved Hyde Park for last because that neighborhood represented for me the most difficult topography. Not in hills or safety or breadth of the boundary. But in its emotional terrain.

When I moved to Cincinnati in 1989, Hyde Park had been the site of my first home. I didn’t know if I had the strength to travel back in time to the young woman I was, let alone accept where I had journeyed to along the way.

But I could no longer avoid the monumental mental task.

I parked my car along Easthill Avenue and strolled towards Grandin Road, passing a senior housing center and streets that revealed – on paper – their connection to other parts of the neighborhood where I had never trespassed.

Within those first steps, I realized how little I knew about the first neighborhood I had lived in. Having mostly traversed Madison Road during my early years, I now turned off Madison onto Grandin Road to find Springer School, a school dedicated to children with learning disabilities (I did a stint there too for WWfaC) and the 24 acres of Summit Country Day, founded in 1890 by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, where my mother-in-law, Mark’s mom, had attended school.

I walked the surrounding streets to take in the mansions and views that encompassed the school.

Of course, I snapped a photo of a home sporting a U of O flag and texted it later to Davis.

I continued on around Elmhurst and came upon the former Dr. Henry Heimlich residence. But then I could go no further and backtracked out to Grandin.

The Cincinnati Country Club, opened on the 4th of July in 1909, was one of the premiere golf courses in Cincinnati. They also hosted a platform tennis club, played with a smaller court, lower net, and no doubles lines (more arguing with your partner). It is also designed to be played outdoors in cold weather.

As I gaped at the many mansions along the road, I thought how foolish my older sister, Laura, and I had been, to think as we did, we could attain that kind of wealth at our entry-level salaries or in our lifetime. We had no idea that kind of money existed. We were young, small-town, and less politically savvy than my kids today to understand that kind of generational wealth and how it becomes entrenched and passed down.

Rain threatened that day as I followed Grandin Road again.

I came upon a unique Frank Lloyd Wright home, once owned by the Corbetts, set atop a hillside and read later the area was being primed for nearly 20 new homes, starting at $500K. The land had previously been owned by the Barrett Family, and, per usual, wealth was following wealth. For more information on the home, click here.

I trekked through lower Grandin and up Alpine Terrace through what could have easily been a neighborhood in Loveland or other older suburban neighborhoods.

Back along those streets, nothing felt remotely familiar to my time in my twenties. In essence, I had discovered something new.

I rose to the top of Alpine, then Paxton to Kinmont and trekked down and around to Linwood, then up Halpin, to Griest to Delta and Erie, passing Clark Montessorri, one of CPS’s premier programs.

Finally I moved along Erie, Shaw, Wasson, and Madison and through Hyde Park Square.

The walk in the neighborhood felt just that. Residential with a charming downtown. I see now how or why I had been attracted to the area.

My Saturdays and or Sundays had been spent at Arthur’s in the courtyard or inside the dining area dreaming of joining those who had  been memorialized in cartoon form on their walls.

As I walked, I thought about the approaching death of Mark’s father-in-law, and how I wanted, now as a writer, to be memorialized. I no longer needed the cartoons. I had grown up. My loved ones would know me in a more intimate way. They would read my words.

My stroll finished up along Observatory as it led towards Madison Road and Withrow High School.

Withrow’s land was once a small farm, then sold to the board by Andrew Erkenbrecker, the founder of the Cincinnati Zoo. The school’s notable alumni were Rosemary Clooney (see BLINK 2017 festivals videos for her animated mural), Ron Oester of the Reds, and John Ruthven, Cincinnati wildlife artist whose work was also animated during BLINK 2017.

There at Withrow, in my downtime as a twenty-something, I wandered over to the oval track and “practiced” hurdles to see if I had enough jump to get over them. Most times, I did.

Now, I moseyed through the grounds and stopped in front of the tower, near the school’s main entrance, and read my way around the column. The first quote I encountered had been most poignant.

“And all who will may enter
and find within these walls equal and
varied opportunity for a liberal
education based alike upon art and industry
with books and things, work
and study combined and where good
health the spirit of play and joy in
work well done shall abound.”

The words were from Superintendent Conlon, who had been working in tandem with the original architect to convey certain important aspects of education and translate that into architecture.

I had traversed eight miles that day. I was tired. Thinking about 52 neighborhoods made one tired. I had one last mile to tread towards my car. Yet I sat longer to contemplate the quote.

Our education system should be guided by this principle, this one principle alone. Had our Cincinnati Public School board candidates and current members seen this quote? Or read this passage? Were we measuring up to those words?

Had I measured up, in this effort to traverse so many miles across the potholed back roads of the of the urban core? Had my living in Cincinnati been joy in work well done?

I crossed Dana and ventured up Madison, taking a quick turn on Vista Drive. The road ran along the backside of my first apartment, Madison Road Apartments. Yet, I had never walked up that way. I traipsed to end, turned around and marched the 100 yards or so to the front stoop of my old apartment.

I had rented a first floor apartment with a walkout patio. I never owned patio furniture. I didn’t need it with Eden Park nearby, or working hard and playing harder. Laura lived only a few miles away, off Martin Luther King Blvd, which became Madison Road. She often appeared early mornings and late evenings looking for company or coffee. We shared a lot in the couch spaces of each other’s lives. Devin, as my boyfriend, was also a night owl. He came knocking on the door after hours for sleepovers. I had often turned in for the night when I would hear a rap on the sliding-glass door. My heart raced, as did my feet, to open the door and let love in.

I plopped down on the steps for quite a while, waiting for someone to shoo me away. But no one came. There existed only the ghosts of the two people I loved the most when I lived here. Those two were gone from my everyday life but never from my heart.

Hyde Park as a neighborhood was thriving. Their community council activities were not “safe nights out” or “clean up the Mill Creek” kinds of activities. They were “cement benches for buses” and “NSP monies for fireworks” sorts of projects. Also, their memberships costs were a bit higher. Council memberships were $20 in Hyde Park and $2 in OTR. They were dedicated to the success of their nonetheless.

I doubt Shannon and I had ever driven along Madison Road together, based on when she departed for college and traveled the world.

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning. T. S. Eliot.

When I have driven with Davis along Madison Road, I slow the car and direct his attention to my first apartment. I become the same broken record I feared when my father did the same. I want Davis to know in that place was my beginning. And my beginning with his father. I will show the apartment to my sister’s daughter some day too. In that place, her mother and I also took root as saplings in the Cincinnati soil. We uprooted and replanted, left and returned. I am still here, using old memories to light new fires.

Stay tuned for “Girl, Walking: 52 Lessons Learned in Crossing Boundaries”, and a celebration of gratitude for and with those who accompanied me in rain and clouds, fog and sun, and early mornings, humid evenings, or late nights in person or on social media.



“You’ve Seen the World” – Gettin’ My 52 On in Mt. Airy

This is my fifty-first in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

“You’ve seen the world, then,” a older, spry woman named Joanne, said as I encountered her in Mt. Airy, after having walked seven miles and told her about my project. Her reply made me laugh out loud.

“I don’t know about the world, but, yeah, I’ve seen a few things since I started.”

A world. Many worlds. Mt. Airy was its own world. I had only visited Mt. Airy once, when picking up a friend for a cookout. As one of his Facebook followers, I noted how often he referenced crime in his neighborhood. I was somewhat reluctant to walk Mt. Airy but when complete, yes, I had seen the world.

I parked my car at the entrance to Mt. Airy and began the long walk down on the opposite side of Colerain Ave. to the bottom of the Colerain hill.  I turned up Raeburn and caught sight of several homes situated on the heights, highlighted by the rising sun. I turned back around and chatted with a few masonry men about the steps they were rebuilding.

“Can I run them?”

“Yeah, but be careful, young lady.” Little did they know how many of these old steps I really had traversed. However, there were several steps that were closing in on “missing” status, so I was grateful for their warning.

As I climbed back up Colerain, I neared the bus stop by a playground.

“All ready for school today?” I asked two students.

Both nodded furiously. “Yes, ma’am.”

“And what’s your favorite subject?”

The fifth-grader answered, “Math.”

“Alright, Math is good for you.”

I glanced down at the first grader. “What about you? You get to go all day now, right?” He nodded again. “What’s your favorite subject?” I quizzed, fully expecting him to answer “recess” or “lunch”.

He opened his eyes wide. “Math,” he declared.

“Well, then I expect to be hearing good things about both of you.”

I wished them well and they, in turn, did the same.

I continued up to the St. Anthony Friary and strolled their spacious grounds.

A few worshippers were departing from the chapel after mass, as I passed through the parking. I overheard one say, “He went a little long today.” My steps were a little lighter after that.

I returned to Colerain once more as my guide. Soon, I approached Hawaiian Terrace where loads of kids waited for the school bus. Teenagers were not the most friendly in the mornings. A few moved out of the way. One grinned at me. The rest looked down, wishing they were anywhere but waiting on a bus.

I turned right and descended Hawaiian Terrace to nearly the end, then spun around to walk back up the hill, snapping photos of the street which contained a myriad of apartments and multi-family units.

An older woman, leaning on a cane in the sun, was in my sights. “Hello,” I greeted her. She acknowledged my presence. “I’m Annette.” I held out my hand and we shook them together. “Great day out isn’t it?”

“Yeeaasss.” She sighed.

“Well, I’m walking Cincinnati’s neighborhoods, all 52. Have you lived here a while?”

“Nah, grew up in Mt. Auburn. I don’t like it here.”

“What don’t you like?” In hindsight, that was a ridiculous question for me to ask, given that Hawaiian Terrace was one of Cincinnati’s most dangerous streets.

I had moved the conversation too close. Ms. Thompson jump up with her cane. “Shit, I gotta go.” She hobbled off.

I followed Colerain and began to see markings for Mt. Airy Forest on the other side of the road. Excited to spot the marker, I ran towards it only to learn that the trail was closed to deer-hunting. At first I was alarmed. Later, it was pointed out to me that only bow hunting and not guns were allowed. I was grateful to my dedicated readers who guided me.

On to North Bend, I turned right on North Bend which led me to Kipling.

Several “no trespassing” signs came into view, as did a pond. A stately manor loomed in the distance.

It was Pinecroft at Crosley Estate, home of Powell Crosley, of Crosley Radios and Crosley Field. To my surprise, the grounds held a bocce court and I decided there must be a secret society of bocce courts around town. Or I will have to form one.

After strolling around the grounds, I met Joanne looking for her newspaper.

“I used to walk fast, like you.” She imitated my stride.

“You can join me.”

“Oh I couldn’t keep up. I’m just out here looking for my paper now.”

“Still read that every morning?”

She nodded.

“Do you do anything online?”

“No, I save that for the young ones.” She gazed at me in the sharp morning rays. “Do you live around here?”

“No, I don’t. I’m walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods. I’m on number 51.”

“Honey, you’ve walked 51? You’ve seen the world, then, haven’t you?”

I patted Joanne on her back. She had shrunk in stature over the years, but she grew tall in front of me, as she recounted how she and her husband, a firefighter, had moved from Mt. Healthy to Mt. Airy when he joined Cincinnati Fire Department. That would have been when they were required to live in the city. She enlightened me on her neighbors, how they used her driveway for parking. “They used to ask, but not any more. Used to be, with a lot of things around here,” she said. “I used to walk like you, every day. Three miles. then my husband retired and I had to stop. Oh, for a while he came with me, but he was so slow, and he wanted to go because he didn’t think it was safe, eventually I just stopped, it wasn’t worth it anymore.”

We said our goodbyes and I promised we’d meet if I ventured into her neighborhood again.

I continued in and out of plenty of “No Outlet” streets (in the old days we called them dead ends), crossing back over Colerain, down to Jessup and Vogel, with no sidewalks and back again onto North Bend.

Mt. Airy had been relatively easy to walk, with the water tower in as my beacon. There had been some notions to make that area a park like setting, as the neighborhood had no center of commerce.

And thus, one can easily surmise why there might be more crime there too.

My phone had run out of charge, so I saved Mt. Airy Forest for another day. Those were my stumbling blocks, keeping me from finishing this trek. It had felt like a marathon and I was panting at mile 25.

While Mt. Airy lacked in a business district, it did not lack a substantial park, one on which the community can continue to build their identity. Mt. Airy Forest contained 1459 acres. And if you forgot that number, there were signs posted everywhere to remind you.

The park boasted of an aboretum, frisbee golf, and Everybody’s Tree House, a handicap-accessible treehouse, where my colleague, Pauletta Hansel, held a writing workshop and my other colleague, Ellen, created this inspiring poem.

There were plenty of residential areas in Mt. Airy, but the occasional multi-family dwellings were disconnected from other roads or businesses, leading to challenges in community creation and policing.

I often struggled with people who asked, Do you feel safe? As a city/country, we routinely asked children to wait at a bus stop at the top of the most dangerous street in the city. If we have to ask, then we’re doing something wrong. My kids were spoiled in not having ridden buses across the city, on metro lines that don’t connect them anywhere, standing out in the cold. I am embarrassed to admit I complained if the bus didn’t pick up the kids at the driveway.

Last spring, WCPO aired this piece. It’s an intriguing read and puts into context the lack of development in the neighborhood and a community that is trying to put itself back together. With a city councilperson, Kevin Flynn, making his home in Mt. Airy, the community needs more support from City Hall.

Perhaps one of its famous sons could help.

The Griffey family, of baseball fame, moved to Mt. Airy in 1973 when Ken Griffey, Sr. played for the Reds. Surely, the duo could make a few contributions to play areas or ballfields to breathe new life into the old growth of Mt. Airy and its surrounding forest.

FullSizeRender - Water TowerLike I have for many other the neighborhoods, I am cheering for Mt. Airy, if only to reclaim a parking lot so that the neighborhood can decide what kind of business to locate there. Most residential homes were structurally-sound and well-kept. Its unfortunate neighborhood had developed around the concept of so many No Outlets.

Mt. Airy Elementary was a community learning center and neighborhood school, serving kids kindergarten through sixth grade. The community council was active and engaged, and ready to turn over a new leaf.

With a forest and medieval castle water tower as backdrop, the neighborhood could certainly rewrite its own tale. I don’t know what the oxygen production was per acre, but with 1459 of them, certainly that life-giving element offered visitors and neighbors alike the opportunity for cleaner air and fresher ideas.

Yes, Joanne, that’s the kind of world I want to see.





With the Kids – Gettin’ My 52 On In Hartwell

This is my fiftieth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

Confession. I had procrastinated when it came to walking Hartwell. We have some young friends in Over-the-Rhine, Nick and Emily, who had moved from Hartwell. Months ago, when my “Girl, Walking” project first began, Nick and Emily suggested I include them when I walked Hartwell.

To date, no one other than Mark –  and my circular and often irrational thoughts – had accompanied me on my walks. So, I had procrastinated until I only had three remaining walks to complete, one of them being Hartwell.

Finally, on a Friday night, I asked Nick and Em if they would wake up early on a Sunday morning to walk. The walk evolved into eating lunch at a West African restaurant and suddenly we were not walking early. Nor we were there only four of us out for a walk. A text had come across from Eric and Mindy, also newer friends of our in OTR, looking to to enjoy the rare late September sun. I asked them along too.

Now, we were six, squeezed into my car (Mark rode in the way back, curled up on my Browns blanket on a day the team would later lose to the Bengals). I inhaled and exhaled. I didn’t take direction well (instruction ,yes, direction, no). I was accustomed to crossing the street wherever my eyes or feet or head wandered and not at someone else’s suggestion.

At Nick’s direction, we parked at Country Fresh Farm Market, to return later.

Hartwell was small, Nick had informed me. It would take us no time to get around. We strolled down Vine and then onto Compton where we found Luken’s Blacksmith Shop and the Convent of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and the Centennial Barn, only to learn that neither of those were within the neighborhood or city limits of Hartwell. And neither was a stretch of small homes that we traversed to get to Galbraith Road.

In essence, Hartwell was laid out in a bar bell shape. We had just circled one end of the barbell.

We landed back on Galbraith, perusing the exterior of the Daniel Drake Center for post-acute care and rehabilitation, while Dr. Mark explained “post-acute” to our group. Across the intersection of Vine and Galbraith, Hartwell School, a CPS community learning center and location of several Rookwood pottery drinking fountains, rose in the early morning sun, reminding me of another writing program where I had co-taught.

We neared the recreation center, a center that also served neighborhoods not in Cincinnati city limits. Nick had spent a few of his formative frisbee golf years in the field behind the center. He was now coaching Mark on the nuances of the game.

Nick then led us to the historical signage, and in particular, the neighborhood sign sporting a unique logo.

The logo, bearing resemblance to a stained glass design, was a graphical representation of the layout of a planned neighborhood, which was how Hartwell was originally conceived.

FullSizeRender (92)Noted here, a streetcar line once ran through Hartwell and also, Vine and Galbraith contained the business districts. Part of the original zoning laws required businesses locate on those two roads.

We traversed Vine to walk Parkway and cross the tracks, and landed in the section laid out as a rosette. Several churches were at the epicenter of the layout. There were so many great structures, including one at 233 Parkway Drive that sold a few years back for only 50K. Nick waxed poetically about wanting to buy it and fix it up.

Walking along Anthony Wayne Avenue, my stomach growled and we did have a planned food stop. However, we were not necessarily nearing the end.

Eventually crossing Galbraith again at Woodbine, we still had another side of Hartwell to walk, where we found two Habitat for Humanity homes under development in a section Nick proclaimed had not been the nicest part of the community. However, lawns once left to seed were now manicured.

Soon, we neared Wyoming (the neighborhood) where Nick and Em joked about the not so obvious border. How many times had I crossed over into another neighborhood, only to realize I was off my path because of campaign signs or school signs? How many neighborhoods looked the same one street to the next, Oakley and Madisonville, East Price Hill and West Price Hill, or until finally a house house fell into disrepair or a business shuttered closed?

Back on Vine, we came across the Public Library warehouse, where the Friends of Library held their sales. I was surprised by the smallness of the warehouse. However, I bet I could find about a dozen of my books inside. The store opened for regular hours on Monday, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Other times and sales can be found here.

We lunched at Teranga, a West-African restaurant, (I had the maffe). Oddly enough, I did have two Senegal connections. One of my mother’s caregivers had married into the family of the owner. And one summer, our family had visited Senegal while our daughter Shannon worked for the state department.

As we made our way through more of Hartwell, I wondered how Nick and Emily had found themselves in Hartwell when moving from Boston.

Nick worked for GE, and after surveying properties and values near GE Evendale, they settled on Hartwell. Once they discovered Teranga, Country Fresh Market and Cosmic Pizza, they knew they made the right choice.

Soon, we came upon the original Cosmic Pizza, the business now closed after its owner was brutally shot and killed during a robbery, leaving a widow and three children. The community rallied behind the family and the killer is still waiting trial on the death penalty.

As twenty-somethings, Nick and Em told us, eventually they found themselves downtown frequently. Like many others, they saw potential in the bones of the old buildings and was drawn to the new energy the city had begun to emit.

We ended our field trip at Country Fresh Market with a little beer tasting and some of Hartwell / Wyoming to take home with us.

A few days later, I returned to walk the remainder of the neighborhood AFTER I had found out about its bar-bell shape.Hartwell Cinci Demo

The two primary areas I had missed were the Evergreen Retirement Community and the Williamsburg Apartments. I had once considered living at the Williamsburg Apartments, but my older sister’s wise counsel led me to a different part of the city (That blog soon to come).

Hartwell had its own community council and improvement association, as well as its own scuba diving center, In Too Deep.

We have a few other “Nick and Em’s” in our lives. We call them “the kids” because the young friends do honestly remind us of our adult children. Sometimes, those same individuals have more fun hanging out with our kids when they are home. But honestly, Nick and Em and many of young people we have met in the city, in particular those not raised or schooled here, see the potential in communities like Hartwell, in a way that is different. They are willing to leap over eastside-westside borders and biases, and racial ones too. They are less entrenched and consider buying homes in neighborhoods that underdeveloped. We need more of them, we need better policies to attract them and keep them, and we need to sometimes get out of the way and let them run with ideas that are better than our own.

As for me, that day, with five others in tow, my pace had slowed. Our walk was a gentle reminder that it wasn’t always places, things, or events that connected me to the city. And it wasn’t always my husband or kids, family or long lost friends, but something or someone new could come along and likewise make me want more for all of us.

Lawn bowling, anyone?




Still Educating Myself – Gettin’ My 52 on in College Hill

This is my forty-ninth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

The day dawned with a crispness in the air and I was free. My number of walks remaining had dwindled to four. I had plans to walk three other communities, to occur with the right amount of time, coupled with the right temperature. College Hill was the lone standout on my list.

From Northside, I followed Hamilton Avenue until the street intersected with Belmont. I parked my car at Belmont and Hamilton Ave. After walking Northside, Hamilton now stood out as a main thoroughfare, one I had never considered before.

As I started my stroll, I crossed the College Hill Presbyterian Church, which has a colorful history, once built with bricks from the kiln of Pleasant Hill (the former name of College Hill) and then demolished by a storm, only to rise again. I continued along Belmont and came across Aiken High School, home to CPS’s New Tech program, where I once subbed as a writing program instructor.

In the middle of Llanfair, the former town hall now anchored a park.

The homes along this stretch varied in their architecture. I finally opened my eyes a little more at the sight of Laurel Court, home of Peter Thompson, founder of The Champion Coated Paper Company.

Later I would circle about its backside and around its stunning European gardens. Each mansion seemed to surpass the one before it.

I turned down Glenview hoping to make it to the bottom of the hill and Fox Preserve, home to a two-mile loop through a forested area. But alas, I ran out of sidewalks, decided the curves were too treacherous to continue, and realized the entrance on Kirby would not take me where I needed to go.

I marched back up Glenview to Belmont and reconnected with North Bend Road, finding stretches of homes along Collegevu Street.

I wandered for a long time in and out of Savannah to Harbeson to Hamilton.

Having overshot my next destination, I backtracked along North Bend Road, crossed onto Cary, and stumbled across McAuley High School, where a writer friend of mine taught.

Then, I caught sight of the backside of Laurel Court. Thankfully, the rear gate had been left open and I could stroll (trespass?) through the green rounds and lush gardens that made me ache for Italy.

I circled around Cedar to find College Hill Fundamental Academy of our CPS system. CHFA was designated an EL school, as if one might instantly know what that means.

EL – experiential learning, a magnet school that combines academics with project-based and service learning. I’m still searching for the flow chart to keep those designations straight, and to better understand the decision criteria in establishing each so different from the rest.

The history of Dow’s Corner was related to Cora Dow, who, yes, as a woman, owned a chain of drugstores and also developed a penchant for good ice cream. Her father had handed her the business when he died of TB. She eventually pursued her pharmacy degree and grew the chain.

Along here, I discovered the business district, more importantly the beer district. Brink Brewery, Marty’s Hops and Vines, Bacall’s, operating since 1982. Fern and the College Hill Coffee Co. also held promise for a less sultry day.

Episcopal Retirement Homes and Model Housing were developing a senior housing complex nearby. And an Artworks mural, depicts “A Perfect Day in College Hill.”

I was enticed by the prospect of stopping for coffee, lolling about in the early fall warmth, but the better part of me knew I wanted to finish.

Instead, I continued snapping photos, drawn to the many “blurple’ – blue and purple – homes I had witnessed on these walks.  I completed a stroll through Hollywood Estates, walked down Daly, and traversed North Bend once more all the way to Tahiti.

Back on the main road, I turned down Argus Drive, aware of which direction I needed to turn, but not the streets. I left it up to my intuition, found Grosbeck, and eventually Hamilton.

However, I was still in search of the colleges for which College Hill had been named. I headed south on Hamilton and came across the Children’s Hospital expansion, which was located in the former Ohio Female College, also known as the Cincinnati Sanitarium and the Emerson.

Directly across the street sat the former Pleasant Hill Academy, also formerly known as the Ohio Military Institute, which was now for sale. I checked the Zillow listing and found the interior to be completely lacking in any original decor. Also, along Pasadena, the former post office had been converted to a home.

I popped down Hilcrest to get a look at the entrance to LaBoiteaux Woods. My final two destinations were Twin Towers Senior Living Community (Do you ever hear their commercials on WVXU? Now you know what it looks like). The Twin Towers community offered an active lifestyle and a continuum of care.

Another condo tower, Hammond North, located just south of the twin towers, boasted of 29 acres of park and was the home of a long-time writing mother of mine.

College Hill had an active development corporation and community council. Controversy didn’t seem to travel too far in this community, other than it had to often distinguish itself between North College Hill (not in the city limits) and College Hill.

The walk had stretched my imagination. I would walk College Hill’s next-door neighbor and find that what College Hill could boast of, that neighboring community could not. The size of a community matters, even when it shouldn’t. So too, for the mix of housing. The attraction of wealth to wealth.

The longer I thought about College Hill, the number of my writing connection increased, perhaps tied to College Hill’s roots in education. A vibrant and progressive history defined, bolstered and propelled a neighborhood as much as anything else. Perhaps we had too many neighborhoods that had been created just for the sake of boundaries.





Finding My Italy, Sort of – Gettin’ My 52 On in S. Fairmount

This is my forty-eighth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

A few weeks ago, when researching neighborhoods, I came across an article about South Fairmount. I had been waiting for my S. Fairmount moment long since I discovered this was where the Italians lived. But I discovered so much more and predicted to my husband, who walked with me that morning, South Fairmount would be the next hot neighborhood in twenty years. By the end of walk and blog, I would feel ambivalent about my prediction.

We began our walk near Error Place on Queen City Ave. And while we were not in error, I could have plotted our stroll more effectively. But we were swept up in the view of cranes and footers and rebar. There was a massive construction project happening called the Lick Run project.

The Lick Run is a watershed that spans about 3000 acres. Sewage and stormwater often overflow from this into the combined overflow in the Mill Creek. The project is intended to keep spillover out of the combined system. Since I’m not engineer, one can read more here.

The project involved sewer system renovations, as well as creating parklike setting around the sewer systems. However, about 90 homes, including historic ones, were destroyed to the effort. Due to funding and controversy, the scope changed over time. Some residents remain concerned their community will resemble more amusement park and not a neighborhood as it once existed.South Fairmount St Francis

The original plans for the Lick Run project also called for two-way Harrison and Queen City Avenue, to allow for a better flow of cars. However, that would not happen either.

With the burrowing of equipment, the elongated stretches of dirt and concrete, the cranes that linger over commuters, residents had a right to be concerned.

We passed the St. Francis Courts and Orion Academy. Once the location of a cemetery and then a hospital named St. Francis Hospital for the Incurables, the buildings were now designated as Section 8 housing. Because I was prone to wandering, we found ourselves pacing to the top of White St. after a dog galloped after us. For once, I was thankful for debris in the road. I picked up a short 2×4, prepared to use it. The dog scurried away upon the owner’s whistle. During my walks, the times I had felt most threatened involved dogs. It was a fear of mine, despite owning one.

Near the top of White, the former Central Fairmount school rose up out of the shadows. A portion of the school looked to have been built in the more recent era of school expansions. The original school was constructed in 1900 and CPS sold it for $300K in 2012, with its last class graduating that same year. It was now owned by an Indianapolis company. Another school building sat empty while our city and county remained perplexed on how to create more affordable housing.

We crossed over on Fairmount and trekked back down Harrison Avenue. Having circled around, Mark suggested we walk counterclockwise to our original direction, along Harrison, crossing over the Westwood which became Queen City Avenue.

We traipsed through Selim, and Esmonde where two sets of stairs were accessible. We processed toward Quebec, finally ending at Sunset Avenue, crossing on Lick Run Way to the “other side” of South Fiarmount. (insert map).

Wanting to the historic church, we approached Orland. I actually walked up Error Place because, well, because I wanted to see what was beyond it.

Back down on Queen City, I found my private Italy, or at least an Italian church, San Antonio, with an upcoming spaghetti dinner on October 8. So much of their early culture resonated with me, as my parents too were raised in the Italian viewpoint of blending in.

Nearing the car, I wanted a break. The treads on my shoes were wearing thin, but I resolved to use the same pair until my treks were complete.

We hopped in the car despite the fact there was still a portion of the community that I wanted to explore. I admitted that my internal compass had gone awry that day.

At first considering a drive home, I changed course and parked near the base of Beekman and Harrison (yes, we could have walked this easily). But temperatures were already nearing 80 degrees at 9 a.m.

I’m thankful we circled around and walked up Pinetree to Tremont. As we made our way up to Tremont, another church beckoned. Having the steeple in my sight, I had merely walked past a woman seated her in car. She called out to us.

“Morning! Hey, do you live on the street?”

“No, we’re just out for a walk.”

“I live here.”  She pointed with pride to compact home. “Been here 11 years.”

Instead of shouting across the sidewalk, Mark and I approached the car.

“I’m Shale.”

“Annette and Mark. Who’s in the back?”

A young woman broadly smiled.

“Nyah. I’m a ninth grader at Clark Montessori.”

Shale spoke lovingly about her home, sharing that she once lived downtown. “Down on Race, near 14th.”

“That’s where we are now.”

“I went to school at Washington Park. I also lived on Vine for a while. They fixed lots of those homes up in Over-the-Rhine, I’m hoping the same happens here. Its not safe, drugs, you name it. I don’t even walk around here.” She eyed us with incredulity.

In broad daylight, maybe she did. But she resided on a side street off Harrison and Tremont was an easy cut-through for anyone wanting to save time or elude observation.

Later, in researching, I found several LLCs cobbling together property for some time, probably since the sewer project had been announced. They too had their eye on the same prize as Shale.

“Stop by anytime,” she encouraged us.

I really could’t wait to return.

We took a few more strides towards the church and discovered a note on the door. Someone had broken into the church. “To the person who broke in, God has seen you,” the note read.

A new academy awaited our exploration, as did an building resembling my old elementary school. The building appeared to be more of a residence now.

We concluded our walk down Waverly, and Howe and Bloom, to the Lunkenmeier Valve Company, which now hosted New Life Furniture and Cincinnati Recycling.

The car was back within our sights. “Can we get to the Mill Creek from here?” I asked.

Without knowledge of the potential for the Lick Run project to connect in any sort of way to the creek, I followed my intuition and there below was the Mill Creek.

And along that area, a pathway that may or may not become a bike path someday, as part of the Mill Creek TrailScreen Shot 2017-10-02 at 12.29.30 PM

I’d love our city’s governing body to actually promote our healthy biking communities.

Instead, we recently lost more federal money and the opportunity to connect the larger biking region.

Here is a list of links to help one continue their education of this controversy better than I can explain:

It’s difficult to capture how the neighborhood feels like it has been scooped out along with the dirt, only to be put back into the ground at a later date. Trekking across the landscape, one would have difficult finding the “center” or core. There is no CRC center, as children visit the one in Millvale. The community council meets at Orion Academy but hosts no website for more information. South Fairmount once contained the highest concentration of Section 8 housing. With the demolition, I don’t know where that stands today.

In conclusion, I vacillated between balancing the needs (and waste) of our 21st century and preserving a way of life from our 19th centuries. As an Italian, I admit to having a hard time letting go of something in the past, its my most endearing trait.

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 7.30.55 AMHowever, we only have one history, and eventually, it becomes a shared one. Who decides what to leave in and out of our history? I’ll leave the reader with this last look.

The stretch of four homes in the first photo (Enquirer file), situated north of this garage-like building (below) are no longer.